Turkey Day is upon us, and the MPC staff is looking forward to the four-day weekend.
At our monthly “wine and cheese” yesterday – a fitting prelude to tomorrow’s feast – we all agreed we have many reasons to give thanks this year. Here are some highlights:
In January, the Midwest was awarded almost $2.6 billion for four major high-speed rail corridors, including $1.13 billion for the Chicago-St. Louis-Kansas City corridor. This 570-mile upgrade will make the Chicago-to-St. Louis trip 30 percent faster and spark economic development and revitalization around stations.
MPC has hosted D.C. officials several times this year. They in turn have inspired us to “keep up the good fight.” In April, Shelley Poticha, Director of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities, spoke at an MPC roundtable about the Sustainable Communities Initiative. Barely a year old, this collaboration across HUD, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Dept. of Transportation already is investing in sustainable community redevelopment in our region. Then, just last month, Xavier de Souza Briggs, associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, spent the day with MPC staff and partners, strategizing how to make the most of the region’s assets and recent federal funding awards to attract additional public and private sector investment.
In July, Illinois’ Pedestrian Safety Act was signed into law. The new law requires drivers to stop rather than just yield for pedestrians crossing the street, making for safer, more inviting communities. This spring, the Illinois General Assembly also renewed the Affordable Housing Tax Credit program, which provides a 50-cent tax credit for every $1 an employer invests in employer-assisted housing benefits (EAH) that help their workers afford homes near work.
Planning for the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) Red Line extension got underway in 2010. Nearly 150 residents from Chicago’s South side participated in a community visioning session in Sept., hosted by Developing Communities Project, in partnership with MPC. Their creative ideas – including two-to-four-story housing locally owned and operated businesses near stations adorned with artwork from neighborhood artists –will be used by the CTA and city agencies as they plan for the proposed stations.
Last month, cheers were heard across northeastern Illinois and Northwest Indiana, as the bi-state region received some $265 million in competitive federal funding through a variety of sustainable development partnerships – a HUGE reason to give thanks!
Another biggie in October: GO TO 2040, northeastern Illinois’ first-ever comprehensive plan, kicked off after two years of hard work by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, regional stakeholders, and partners including MPC staff, who contributed as members of several GO TO 2040 advisory committees. Just this month, CMAP and The Chicago Community Trust launched the MetroPulse web site, giving partners easy access to piles of customizable data about the issues that impact the livability of our communities. Data junkies that we are, MetroPulse is an early holiday gift to MPC!
October was a fruitful month, yielding a crop of good ideas at the Gary and Region Investment Project (GRIP) on Oct. 27. GRIP is a regional initiative to reinvest in Northwest Indiana’s urban core, and the day-long “GRIP the Future” event was both a resounding call to action and the first step in identifying a few key investments that the region can work together on to stabilize and transform its economy. If you are a resident or stakeholder in Northwest Indiana, you can take the GRIP survey to weigh in on what investments will do the most to revitalize Gary and Northwest Indiana’s urban core.
This month, MPC and our partner, Openlands, launched What Our Water’s Worth (WOWW), a multiyear, multimedia communications campaign about the value of water in our region. Monthly e‑newsletters and the web site Chicagolandh2o.org are exploring water’s value through stories and video interviews featuring ordinary and remarkable people across our region; data and an interactive map explaining where our water comes from; and conservation tips and resources for responsible water use. Sign up for the WOWW e-newsletter today.
As they say in the cartoons, “That’s not all folks!” We’ve plotted a whole slate of projects and policy reforms planned for 2011.
While it can be tempting, once a task or project is accomplished, to rush on to the next thing on our to do list, I hope you’ll also take time this weekend to reflect on your own successes, both personal and professional.